It's Proven: Why The Greatest People Are Many Times The Loneliest

by Lauren Martin

Loneliness. It comes in waves, days and just about anywhere you think you’re safe… crowded rooms, busy streets, coffee shops.

It slowly enters your body through your toes, working its way up to the pit of your stomach, coursing its way through the veins in your arms to your neck, until it reaches your eyes, ready to pour out in heavy streams of warm, salted water, running into your mouth and nose, choking you with its velocity.

It envelops you, terrifies you and destroys you. It manifests itself in couples walking down the street, children with their parents and groups of friends enjoying drinks outside an open bar.

It comes in songs, movies and late at night, in the deep darkness of your empty room. It comes in moments, fleeting and unknown, yet as painful and surreal as that time-warping instant you were told you are no longer loved.

There’s something about being in your 20s that invites these moments of loneliness, these harsh blows and deep stings.

We’re told these are the best years of our life, but they really just feel like the loneliest.

What people in their thirties, forties and lamenting fifties fail to remember in the glamorized testimonials of their youth, are all the moments of deep loneliness and despair that come with being a twenty-something. They forget the life they had before finding their partners, their kids, their perfect apartments.

They forget the late nights with the wrong people, the bad jobs with the bad pay and the years of unknowing. The days followed by months of complete and utter uncertainty.

Uncertainty about everything. Jobs, lovers, friends. We’re thrown into this array of “real life” and told to figure it out. We lose jobs, gain enemies and find out that true friendships are almost as hard to find as true love. We realize that, in this chaotic whirlwind of responsibility and life planning, we’re alone.

It’s like the infinite feeling of being abroad. However, unlike that semester in college, there is no foreseeable return date.

No reassurance that in these moments of debilitating homesickness and misery that you will eventually be back, in the comfort of your familiar house with your parents protecting you.

There is no more home. This loneliness, instability and chaos is your home. This emptiness, this sh*tty apartment with no one to come home to or meals cooked for you, is your life. This instability is infinite, or at least until you grow up and find ways to make a home for yourself.

According to “The Wall Street Journal,” “rates of depression, anxiety and other mental-health issues are higher in the teens and 20s than in any other decade except the 80s.”

It’s during this time that you experience the most severe and numerous makings and breakings of relationships, and the most chaotic of years in terms of your career. You are also still struggling to figure out who you are and what will define you.

However, there’s a silver lining to all this misery, a ray of light in your pit of loneliness and dark years of uncertainty.

According to a study published by "The Guardian," loneliness, or what many attribute to be a “quarter-life crisis," is a necessary process throughout adulthood that serves as a catalyst for change.

According to Dr. Oliver Robinson, from the University of Greenwich in London, there are four stages to a quarter-life crisis, in which the individual goes through feelings of entrapment and bewilderment, catalyzing change and eventually procuring a new start.

Without these feeling of insecurity and loneliness, we wouldn’t make the effort to change. Because you can’t start building a better life for yourself if you already have one, and you can't work on feeling better if you've never felt bad.

Robinson goes on to explain that there is a proven pattern of positive change that results from these feelings. If harnessed correctly, loneliness is, indeed, good for you. And it makes sense; once you’re at rock bottom, the only place to go is up.

It Builds Character

Loneliness, like any type of pain, creates a threshold from which you learn and grow. It teaches you how to enjoy and appreciate the moments you are around others and how to cope with solitude, harnessing those feelings and that time towards something productive.

According to a study published by Harvard University, time spent alone actually increases one's ability to empathize.

It makes us more prone to introspection and helps us to understand the loneliness of others. It helps us engage with our emotions and the emotions of those around us.

In an article by Leon Neyfakh, of “The Boston Globe,” “a certain amount of solitude has been shown to help teenagers improve their moods and earn good grades in school.”

Though it may hurt to be alone, forced in a corner with your worst thoughts and fears, it's those thoughts and those feelings that make you stronger.

It Makes You More Creative

It was Robert Frost who said, “a poem begins with a lump in the throat.” Only out of deep suffering do we create our greatest, most passionate works. Only out of adversity and sorrow do we find ways to bring about change.

Pain brings feelings we numb ourselves to, feelings we avoid at all costs with distractions and diversions.

However, when you finally let yourself bask in those moments of pain and solitude, you will find that there’s a depth to your soul that can and should be expressed. Without pain, we wouldn't have some of the greatest works of art known to mankind.

It Teaches You About Yourself

Loneliness gives you the time and space you need to find yourself and the things most important to you. It tells you how well you can cope with being alone and how much you rely on the presence of others.

Douglas Coupland, author of “Shampoo Planet” once said, “Remember: the time you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself. Life's cruelest irony.”

It’s the time you need to suffer through, to find how strong you really are. Because only in our deepest, darkest moments of loneliness and despair can we see exactly how low we can go and how high we can rise.

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